Posted in A Week In..., Guild Wars

A Week in Guild Wars 2: A Mesmer, mapping

Welcome to a new series here at Bio Break called “A Week In…!” The idea here is to encourage myself to branch out into MMOs (and various other online titles) that I haven’t ever played or played in a while by putting them in my personal spotlight for a full week. Every day (except Saturday), as best I can, I’ll jump into these games, spend a bit of time playing and screenshotting, and add to an illustrated journal about my experiences to share with you the following week.

Why? For a few reasons: To explore past my regular games, to get a fun post out of it, to get some stories to share on the MOP podcast, and to touch base with titles that I don’t see for long periods of time. For our inaugural edition, I’ll be spending a week in Guild Wars 2. Was going to do it anyway and had it all set up to go, so I figured this would be a nice, easy point of entry!

Sunday: While I was mostly set up to get back into playing this character, a stop over at Divinity’s Reach was in order to buy some ascended jewelry for my Mesmer. I had something like 652 laurels, thanks to daily logins, so I wasn’t hurting for currency. I got some new rings and a necklace, but the earrings required globs of ecto that I lacked. Guess that could be a nice long-term goal.

I only have 24% world completion on this character, so there are plenty of zones left to uncover. I started with an easy lowbie one — Kessex Hills — and got to work. I needed some very familiar and relatively tame landscape to get reacquainted with the Mesmer’s weird skills. The hardest thing for me to get into my head was the use of gliding and mounts, both of which I had and kept forgetting to use when I needed them. I won’t tell you how many times I face-planted off of a hill instead of gliding gracefully down.

Monday: Little things I’m remembering that I like about Guild Wars 2: Remote looting with the “F” key. Instant mounting. Getting extra XP for mobs that haven’t been killed in a while. Multiple ways to accomplish heart objectives. Fighting your way out of a downed condition.

I was having a real hard time getting back into the groove of using a one-handed sword and pistol — it all felt awkward to me — so I ran back to a trading post, pawned some mystic coins, and bought myself a greatsword to do some MAJOR LAZER BEAM ACTION. It was… okay. I always struggle with the Memser because I like the *idea* of the class better than how it actually functions, which is “all over the place and weird.”

Beginning to regret not rolling up a new character, like a Thief or something I haven’t played to death.

Tuesday: The greatsword is a bit more workable as a Mesmer weapon, although there’s one of those ground-targetable skills that I hate. I always lose sight of where the cursor is on the screen and hate having to get it into the right position before activating an ability. Just say no to ground-target skills!

Anyway, today I stumbled across a rift, and as we all well know, when you encounter some mystical portal to realms unknown, you dive into it headfirst. Turned out that it was a big champion boss bug looking for some smackdown, so a-smacking I went. It was here that I learned how quickly a Mesmer can — and will — die. I’m squishier than an overripe banana that’s gone all black.

Wednesday: As I continue to map (and battle the odd Champion mob that wandered into my orbit), I once again felt that weird dichotomy that inhabits much of this game. That is to say, the activities are pleasant in and of themselves, but the rewards are lacking. Filling out a heart, for example, spits out a bit of money, XP, and karma my way (and unlocks vendors that aren’t that useful for anything). Killing that big spider mob champion up there gave me a backpack with some crafting gear in it and a piece of armor that I’ll break down into even more crafting items.

And I get that this is how Guild Wars 2 is designed — that the focus is far more on “you make the stuff with the random bits we throw your way” and “your gear is going to stay the same, more or less, forever.” But it doesn’t make looting fun. I’m getting tons of stuff, sure, but that stuff is mostly meaningless to me. I’m not really looking forward to the next drop or getting the dopamine hit off of seeing an orange tag on a piece of gear. It’s all just gristle for the mill.

Thursday: I can tell you that by Thursday, I wasn’t that pleased to see the login screen any longer. It wasn’t that any of this was bad, per se, but I really wasn’t feeling the Guild Wars 2 vibe the way I would need to in order to play for the long haul. That’s why it was mentally comforting to know that I had only committed for a week. Right about now, I’m eyeing that ejection lever.

I did run back to Rata Sum to buy a staff, because why not spend the session experimenting with a different weapon skillset? I will say that out of the three different weapon setups I’ve tried this week, this one I like the best. Chaos armor and chaos storm are a whole lot of fun to use, and I love how the basic attack ping-pongs between bad guys..

Friday: About halfway through this week, I knew how I wanted to end it, which was to make a new character. If and when I come back to Guild Wars 2, I want something to look forward to playing (and I know from this week that the Mesmer ain’t going to be it). So I whipped up a new Thief with an old name, Photon Jammer. I envision that she’ll be a two-pistol gunslinger, something straightforward and fun. So I got through her character creation process (which is still one of the best in the industry) and parked her in the intro zone for a future adventure.

And that’s it for A Week in Guild Wars 2! I like this format so far, as it lets me have some fun and play around without forcing myself to hit a time-heavy goal. I hope you enjoyed it too.

Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: The echo of a dawn

There’s certainly been an upswing in interest in Guild Wars 2 lately — and that’s no surprise, as ArenaNet recently unveiled details on the first expansion since 2017’s Path of Fire. With MMORPGs, it always, always matters if the community sees a game as being actively developed or dead in the water, because far fewer people are going to invest time in the latter. So after some dormancy there, GW2 appears on the upswing again, and that’s good for all interested parties.

Am I an interested party? Perhaps. I’m at this stage where I’m willing to be convinced. As I said, the End of Dragons reveal didn’t exactly bowl me over (nor did it many other people I talked with). It was “fine” but not must-have-this-NOW exciting. But it’s usually a good time to get back into an MMO when it’s ramping up to an expansion, because you know that there’s going to be a lot of chatter, focus, and returning involvement with the game.

I figured that it couldn’t hurt to dust off an old character and poke back in now and then. The really nice thing about GW2 is that it never feels like a huge time commitment to me. I’m most interested in mapping anyway, so that can be done at my leisure with no rush.

For a character, I decided to go with one of my more underutilized members of my roster, Eoan Echo, a Mesmer. I like her look and theming, and figure that I’ve already played the Necro and Engie to death at this point. Pink butterflies it is.

But before getting her going, there was a whole lot of maintenance that had to be done. My account’s been accumulating scads of stuff thanks to daily logins that haven’t been sorted. No lie, it took me two hours to get inventory issues straightened out, stuff sold, relevant stuff (like free dyes or skins) used, items transferred over, and so on. My bank was a hideous mess, and I got ruthless with chucking stuff that didn’t need to be there.

For a hot minute there, I felt a desire to completely start over with a new account, like I did with WoW a few years back. I know, it would be idiotic to do so — the price tag is not going to make this a possibility — but there’s something appealing about getting all of those unlocks again and building up from scratch.

Instead, I’ll be continuing my mapping journey while building up my bank account, buying gems, and amusing myself with whatever short session plays I give this.

Posted in Guild Wars

Is Cantha enough draw for Guild Wars 2?

Amid that whole Blizzard mess of last week was the full reveal of Guild Wars 2’s third expansion, End of Dragons. One can only hope that this will, indeed, be an end of the dragons, because that’s something that this MMO has run into the ground and sorely needs to move past.

Overall, it was a good reveal. Guild Wars 2 has had a very rough couple of years, but now it feels like it’s emerging with solid visible leadership, a big product for people to get excited about, and hope for the future. It’s one of those games that fell from glory a while back and needed a win. It’s too early to say if Cantha will be that win, but at least this is a nice boost of publicity and community excitement.

And good for Guild Wars 2, you know? I’ve had my ups and downs with this game, but I’ve never been at a point where I didn’t want it to win. There are many great features and designs, and it’s an easy game to return to. I’m sure this press reveal is stirring a lot of returns right now, because there’s nothing like an MMO coming alive again with a promise of big future stuff to call back the faithful.

As for the expansion reveal itself, I guess I’m a “5” out of a 1 to 10 scale. Right squat in the middle. To be honest, Cantha itself has never been a huge draw for me, both in the original Guild Wars or here. I know it has this rabid cult following, but I’m not part of that.

I was hoping that we’d get some news about some really exciting features — housing, for instance, no pun intended — but this reveal stopped short of dangling something that made me say, “Now I’ve GOT to play it!” There’s some new mount types, ok. Fishing? Yeah, that’s so underwhelming a feature that the only time I see someone hyping it up is a developer who needs another bullet point for a feature list. Some more story, some new elite specs, a whole lot of “more of the same.”

That’s not necessarily bad. Guild Wars 2 needed more ANYthing at this point, and this looks to be a full package. The skiffs — player boats? — is the most interesting-sounding of all of the features.

I’m looking at this expansion and feeling the equal pulls of apathy toward GW2 and the usual FOMO of a community rushing toward the bright new shiny. But it’s going to be warring with a lot of releases and launches for the rest of 2021 — and End of Dragons’ 2022 date is far past that. Perhaps it’ll be a revisit later this year or early next year to see if the Guild Wars 2 bug might bite again, but that’s a big “perhaps” with me.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars

How Elder Scrolls Online and Guild Wars 2 share the same great feature

One of the absolute best design elements that went into Guild Wars 2 was in creating its maps and how players would interact with zones. Choosing to ditch the hub-quest model, GW2 elected to create zones with all sorts of icons to encourage exploration and interaction. Filling out a GW2 map is deeply satisfying by finishing up all of the hearts, points of interest, vistas, and the like. I appreciated that it allowed me to set my own course and follow my curiosity rather than a rigid path.

While Elder Scrolls Online isn’t exactly the same, the two MMOs share a lot of similarities in their zone designs. ESO also has quests, POIs, mini-dungeons, sky shards, and waystones all over the place, and the player is pretty free to meander in whatever fashion is thought best.

The newish (well, not so new now) zone finder screen is a big help in giving players checklists and starting points for all of the optional activities. If I want to spend the day sky shard hunting or making sure I’ve done every last quest line, this screen gives me a visual indicator as to my progress (and some clues as well).

My Glenumbra meanderings are about at an end. I really am setting no speed records for completing zones, but I’m having a very good time even so. One of the last things I did was to go back and wrap up dungeon delves, which I had neglected originally. Each of these are small public dungeons with a boss tucked somewhere inside, and it’s a nice solo option to jump into one and check off that tickbox without a huge time investment.

It just makes every zone that I haven’t done feel like it’s a gift box that I get to unwrap and enjoy a bit at a time. Hm. Maybe a better analogy is a box of chocolates, savoring one bite of content at a time. Whatever, it’s lunch, and I’m hungry.

And hey, I’m level 50! My very first in Elder Scrolls Online, so Champion Point grind, here I come!

Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: Cheerful necromancy

If there’s one overriding directive when it comes to how I’m approaching Guild Wars 2 this time around, it’s to keep things casual and carefree. I’m not pushing myself hard toward any huge goals, I’m simply enjoying the pursuit of smaller goals in whatever fashion I please.

And it pleased me to switch classes up the other day from the Engineer back to my Necro, Yeti Yesterday. Her namesake started out in the original Guild Wars, and I’m happy to have her present for the sequel as well. While the Engineer was fine, I was craving a mob of pets, and it was either this or the (still unplayed by me) Elementalist. Plus, I love Yeti Yesterday’s look and build. It’s really relaxing to just throw down marks and watch pets swarm all over the bad guys. Kind of feels a little unfair to them, but hey, I need the loot.

The only downside to switching over to her is that she had less accomplished. I spent a few days finishing up her personal storyline and then began to hack away at the end of season 2. As she now has the mounts that I’ve unlocked from Path of Fire, I’m not as much in a rush to return to that expansion, but I suppose I should to rank up those beasts.

But for the most part, I like to log in and just clear out map after map. With the mounts, it’s a lot less problematic than it used to be, and I keep rediscovering over and over how photogenic this game is. Seriously, it’s hard NOT to take ridiculously attractive pictures. I liked this above shot of a statue looming above the Norn city while the snow falls around it.

I also took a brief holiday into the Super Adventure Box hub, although that was mostly out of curiosity than a desire to play it. I’m horrible at jumping puzzles and platforming, so SAB isn’t really my thing, but I love the theming. And check out the critter parade! That made my day to witness it.

Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: Hopping to victory

What I’m appreciating about Guild Wars 2 these days is that it’s a perfect game to play when you don’t want to think — you just want to wander and experience. You don’t have to pay much attention to quests while doing stuff in the world, and even when you are in missions, the story is most definitely forgettable. Something something dragons and angry gods and people calling me “Commander” because they can’t be bothered to learn my first name.

Instead of fussing about storylines, most of my play sessions involve logging in and seeing where my interest and attention takes me. Loosely, I’m working on unlocking my mount masteries and clearing through zones (I finished Crystal Oasis and have been hacking away at Desert Highlands). There’s always a mini-goal to work toward, whether it’s the next map point or a heart or an event or a mastery point or what have you. While I’m doing this, I’m getting a feel for how my raptor and bunny handle.

I do kind of wish that Guild Wars 2 would have rolled all of these mount abilities into one mount, rather than a bunch of different ones, because it is annoying as all get out to have to switch between them for specific situations. It’s awkward, unlike the elegant double-tap of the spacebar for gliding (which I kind of consider my third mount). While I’m not that keen on platforming as a whole, getting these movement-related abilities reminds me pleasantly of old days playing Metroid and other similar games that gradually boosted your abilities that in turn opened up the map even further.

A lot of nights, I’m trying to figure out the puzzle of how to get to a various point. Sometimes I can’t, because it requires a certain mastery that I don’t have yet. Grinding these masteries is slow and not at all fun, but I get that they’re there to keep you occupied in these maps for longer than you would’ve done otherwise. Unlike the old world maps, where everything was expected to be done on foot (and mounts are a bonus), these newer maps may have points completely inaccessible until you get a particular mastery. That bugs me, but it’s a small issue and not that distracting from my average adventures.

I am pleased to see how many people still engage in the dynamic event system. I think this shows the strengths of Guild Wars 2’s overall design, that these features are synergetic with each other and encourage participation because they’re still relevant and helpful in some way. Events keep rewarding currency, mastery experience, and items that people want, even when they’ve cleared out the maps, and so groups still migrate to these. They’re so much more enjoyable with others, so I don’t mind taking detours to get into them.

At the very least, I know that an event will pay out in some items that I can hopefully convert to cold, hard cash. I’m currently saving up for my next batch of gems to unlock the few episodes of the living story that I need, so any and all money is welcome. Every week, I’ll take an evening to head over to a trading post, empty my bank of mats, and put stuff up for sale. Seeing the gold flow in is quite satisfying.

In the meantime, it’s back to map exploration. As always, Guild Wars 2 is pure eye candy, and I’m never lacking in opportunities to take amazing screenshots. At least Path of Fire isn’t all desert dunes!

Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: Going ‘all in’ on an MMO

When I engage in an MMO, it tends to be in one of three ways. It could be a one-shot, trying-out-of-curiosity sample tasting. Just giving it a go to see what it is, perhaps so that I can say that I went into it at least once in my life. It could also be what I think of as “dabbling,” where I log in to scratch an itch or play extremely infrequently and casually.

And then there’s the third category, where I go “all in” on a game. Sometimes we think of this as finding an MMO home or getting addicted to it or any other of a number of expressions where we mean that we’re really settling into a game for the long haul. For me, this means setting goals, wanting to get through all of the content, finding a guild, and playing at least an hour a day in it. This is what I’m always looking for, because MMOs are the most enjoyable for me when I’m invested in long stretches of time rather than sporadically. That is, I guess, where I’m finding myself with Guild Wars 2.

I’m a bit surprised, to be honest. I haven’t been that invested in this game for a long while now, and earlier this year I even grumped about how I’m not happy with the direction that ArenaNet took it. My stance on that hasn’t changed, but I guess there’s still some enjoyment yet to be had. From logging in to fool around with mapping to getting involved with an adults-only guild to buying Path of Fire, I’ve progressed pretty rapidly from dabbling to devoting in the past couple of weeks.

Speaking of Path of Fire, I’m quite happy that I picked up this expansion. Not only is it a lot more engaging and better-looking than I anticipated — I’m not generally a fan of desert zones, nor was I that crazy about Guild Wars Nightfall — but the mounts are the real deal rather than a gimmick. At least the first one, the raptor, felt very natural, handled great, and had a neat jumping-forward mechanic that proved useful. The cynical part of me knows that the many types of mounts was to drive up sales and increase the mastery grind, but the joy-loving part of me is happy to have a variety that’s more functional than cosmetic.

I’m waiting to see how crazy it’ll be try to whip out certain mounts for certain situations, but already I’m glad to have them. The idea is to leap-frog over world mapping and other living world seasons to concentrate on PoF for the time being to get these mounts in order to make the rest of the unconquered content easier to handle.

I even did a dungeon with my guild the other day, more to be social than anything else. I’m not trying to craft, but rather I’m selling all the stuff I keep collecting to get gold. I kind of need it, since I have three living world episodes (from the fourth season, I think) that I didn’t get back when they were free, so I need the gems to buy those. I’m also planning on getting some Super Adventure Box time in this month for those lovely, lovely skins.

Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: The aerodynamics of spinny cubes

If I haven’t made it clear enough, I love having goals. Setting goals, working toward goals, and achieving goals is the engine that sends me into action in all aspects of my life. I’m not always super-successful in what I do, but I find more satisfaction in having the guidance that goals provide than just aimlessly doing whatever.

And that definitely applies to gaming. I see in myself a marked difference in gaming without any goals and having ones that I’m working toward. There are goals that the game sets for me and those I choose for myself, however, and I like a bit of both.

Guild Wars 2 strikes me as a game that leans more toward the latter type of goal-setting. You can go through the story content or not. You can map zones or not. You can chase legendaries or not. You can play fashion guru, go raiding, join in with guild missions, and head off to Reddit to be grumpy. Lots of options there. I’m finding the most enjoyment in day-to-day establishment of short-term goals, such as “finish one living world chapter” or “completely explore this zone,” and then going after it until it’s done. It’s not so huge as to take me months, just one or two play sessions.

One goal that I set for myself was to upgrade my glider skin from the default one that looks like a bunch of dirty toilet paper stitched together. I swear, ArenaNet made that thing ugly on purpose so we’d be fleeing toward the cash shop to buy better-looking ones. Smart business model. The only thing was, our family is pinching pennies right now, so I’m not spending money on games.

The only other option, then, was to make enough money to buy gems to buy cash shop stuff. That was doable. I sat down and emptied out my bank of various materials and ran an “everything must go!” fire sale. Within a half-hour, I had enough gold to get the skin that I wanted, and now I’m flying with the power of spinny cubes. Don’t ask me how that works, it just does. Thanks, goals!

Posted in Guild Wars

Guild Wars 2: Dinking around without a purpose

Don’t mind my rampant jumping around between MMORPGs these days, I’m obviously going through something and these games are my therapy. It’s not so much a restlessness as a desire to explore my old roster of favorites and see if any of them are ready for my interest. Neverwinter, then WoW Classic, and now… Guild Wars 2.

I’ve been routinely logging into GW2 every night for months now to grab free goodies, but I hadn’t moved from the same spot where I had started Heart of Thorns and hadn’t gotten too far into it. But the other night, I decided what the heck, I’d at least grind out my basic glider mastery — yeah, I’m *that* far behind the pack.

Once I got the glider, I started to have a lot of fun with it. Sure, you can’t fly up, but it really changes how you interact with the world by being able to glide short and long distances. I’m finding that the glider has a lot of functionality. I can use it as a parachute to do a long drop safely, I can hop between rooftops, I can get to vistas with ease if I have a higher vantage point from which to begin, and I can simply have fun jumping off and soaring over the land. It’s not quite WildStar’s double-jump, but it’s so good that I can’t believe I’ve waited so long to get it.

Between the glider and reconnecting with my old characters, I decided that I might as well go all-in on Guild Wars 2 — at least for the time being. Having another expansion in the works at least has the psychological effect of feeling more secure in the game’s future, which is not something anyone could say over the past year.

I flip-flopped for a while between my Necromancer and Engineer, but ultimately went with my Engie for flamethrowers, turrets, and aesthetics. I was thinking about the elite specializations that are out there, and sure, I might try them at some point, but I pretty much have the kind of character build I want. Flipping between dual pistols and flamethrower offers me enough variety for combat, especially when I have elixirs and turrets and toolbelt skills to throw into the mix.

So what now? It’s that period of getting reacquainted with a title, figuring out where you were last, how your rotation works, if any of the patches changed anything that you now have to learn, finding a new guild, and so on. I’m trying to wrap my head around what I’d want my goals to be in the game. I’m never going the route of legendary weapons (maybe ascended? I don’t know), and my character’s gear and build are pretty set. I guess what’s left is the story missions and expansions, mastery tracks, making money, getting more cosmetics, and generally dinking around.

At least the play sessions so far are very relaxing. I’ve been world mapping, and I have tons of missions to do when I want to change up my focus. For now, it’s all about messing with the glider as I explore and uncover.

Posted in Guild Wars

Cantha? Can-do, Guild Wars 2!

Years and years ago at PAX, I was covering a Guild Wars 2 event and I got to watch Colin Johanson tackle a succession of interviews. Pretty much every reporter asked him the same popular fan question of, “So, what about Cantha?” To which, Colin would visibly die a little more and give an evasive answer.

Hopefully, he survived, because finally nobody’s going to be asking that question any more.

Personally, I don’t get why Cantha was really all that in Guild Wars 1, but fans really, really seemed attached to the setting and have wanted the sequel to feature it since GW2 launched. Now it looks as if they’ll get their wish, as ArenaNet announced yesterday that it broke ground on a third expansion and teased the above picture to strongly hint that, yes, it’s Cantha-time. Beyond that, no details, no timeline, nothing. Just “please keep playing our game for right now and we’ll try to get an expansion to you… sometime. Just don’t go away.”

The response among my Guild Wars 2 friends has been extreme high levels of joy. I’m kind of Ben Wyatt from Parks & Rec who doesn’t get why the whole town is nuts about a small horse, but I’m glad that they’re glad. And they ARE glad. Like, jumping-up-and-down-squealing-like-an-F1-racer-burning-out-the-gate glad.

Setting aside, I definitely approve that Guild Wars 2 is committing to a third expansion. This weird “saga” stuff isn’t really lighting up fan enthusiasm and the game’s been languishing ever since last year’s layoffs and project reduction. Expansions are proven excitement machines, something for the playerbase to rally around. I wouldn’t be surprised if Guild Wars 2 saw its population spike up significantly this weekend due to that teaser image alone. Heck, I’m a bit tempted to play, maybe because it’s been stirring in my mind this winter.

But I guarantee you that even if you’ve never played the game, you have more than enough time to go through all of its content and expansions before this expansion releases. From the sound of it, Cantha is a long ways out — probably 2021, and maybe late 2021 at that. This is just a notice to say that ArenaNet is working on it, not that it has anything more than a single piece of concept art to show for it.